Edited by Alison Carminke
When I started my own virtual assistant business, I offered copywriting, social media management and proofreading as a service. Back then, more and more people were starting out as virtual assistants themselves and, in my eyes, all seemed to offer those same services.
I couldn’t stop scrolling through those other VAs’ feeds and websites to check on them: what they offered, how many followers they had and what they had achieved. In short, I couldn’t stop comparing my work and my life to other people’s. And it always made me feel bad, because I thought that they accomplished so much more than I did. I thought that they were so much more successful than I was. And soon I couldn’t even see my own achievements anymore.
Eventually, I discovered that once you are in this cycle, it won’t end unless you take action to stop it. All that comparison stole my joy, my passion, and my drive to succeed. I knew that to stop comparing myself to others, even direct competitors, was the only way to become a successful business owner myself.
It took me a long time to change this embedded habit. But I learned four valuable reasons why I had to try.
Why is it bad to compare yourself to others?
1. You are too unique to be somebody else
Have you ever wondered why people buy things from a particular brand? It’s because they identify with it. Here’s an example: I’m not a “girly” woman. I never have been and I never will be. And there’s nothing wrong with that, right? When I see a product that I’m generally interested in, sold by someone very feminine who loves the colour pink, I won’t buy that product. Instead, I’ll look out for other people who offer a similar product and who align with my values and interests. I buy from brands I identify with.
Just think about it: What products do you buy and what brands do you buy from? Why do you choose those specific brands? I bet they have something you identify with.
The same goes for your business. It doesn’t matter whether other people offer similar products. Your followers buy what you’re selling because they identify with you.
You are too unique to be somebody else and as soon as you learn this, you’ll attract customers who share your values and interests.
2. Comparison is the thief of joy
Comparing yourself to others adds no value to your life. As soon as you start looking at what others have, you start thinking about what you haven’t got yet. Eventually, you stop feeling happy about what you’ve accomplished so far. Comparing yourself distracts you from the meaning or fulfillment your life already has.
3. You start focussing on the wrong person
Always checking out what your competitors are doing leads to one result: you focus on them. You start watching all the things they do, instead of working towards your own dreams.
There is only one life you can change: yours.
Focussing on your competitors tells you nothing about what you have achieved so far and what you’ll achieve in the future. Instead, spend your energy on doing your best work and achieving all those goals you’ve been dreaming about.
4. You have too much to lose
Comparing yourself costs not only joy and focus, but so much more. Your pride, your passion, your drive – these are all things you lose when you start comparing. And let me ask you a question: Is it really worth it? Stop losing so much through a habit that doesn’t serve you at all.
How to stop comparing yourself
1. Become aware of your thoughts
The key to breaking every bad habit is becoming aware of your thoughts. Our minds control almost everything we do, which is why we have to start with them to make lasting changes. So every time you notice yourself doing a comparison, stop and take note of the thoughts running through your mind. Notice the harmful effects of comparing yourself to others. Have another look at the 4 I just told you about, if you need a reminder.
Becoming aware of your thoughts helps you to change destructive habits from the inside out.
2. Don’t compare other people’s “outside” to your “inside”
I know, seeing other people on social media can sometimes be very discouraging. They seem to be living happy lives, in the best places, eating the best food. But what you see is only what is on the outside. Can you tell for sure whether they really live such happy lives? Let me guess: You can’t.
This is the so-called “curse of social media”. Hardly anyone shares the bad things in their life, just the good stuff. So we mostly see good (posed, photoshopped and edited) stuff going on in their businesses and lives. And we tend to compare this with how we feel on the inside. That’s quite an unfair comparison, don’t you think? So stop it.
3. Gratitude, gratitude, gratitude
If you’ve been following me for a while, you know that I preach a lot about gratitude. And there is a reason for that. Gratitude helps us to see our achievements, to bring joy into our lives and to stay humble. And those three things are all attributes of successful business owners.
Be grateful for the things you’ve achieved so far,no matter how far you still have to go. Being present and becoming aware of what you have now leads to joy, combats fear and strengthens your confidence. Awesome, right?
So every time you catch yourself in a comparison, stop, take a deep breath and start thinking about the things you are grateful for in your life. Even better, start every day with gratitude, to go through your day with joy and passion.
4. Transform comparison into motivation
Not all comparison is bad. You can use positive comparison to improve what matters most to you. For instance, if you know someone extraordinarily kind or generous, you can use them as a role model to become a nicer person yourself.
The key is to use your role model as a benchmark you can measure yourself against. Then your comparison can be used to improve yourself.
Remember, comparison becomes destructive when we feel bad about the things others seem to have. So instead of falling prey to its dark underbelly, use it to identify where you and your business want to be, and start taking action towards that.
It can be hard to break the comparison habit, but the freedom and joy that come with comparing less are totally worth the effort.